Back to School: How to Help Your Children Get a Good Night’s Sleep

What are some of the issues that parents might face in terms of their children’s sleep when they go back to school?

The biggest issue is late bedtimes and awakenings. Their circadian rhythms have been thrown off, making it more difficult to awaken for school. Lack of a bedtime routine during the summer can be problematic, especially in younger children. In addition, late television watching right up to bedtime is a problem.

What tips would you give to parents looking to re-establish their child’s bedtime routine?

  1. Begin making bedtime and wake time 15 minutes earlier two weeks in advance of school.
  2. Calculate sleep/wake timing knowing how much sleep your child needs. School age children need 9 to 11 hours. Teenagers need 8 to 10 hours according to the most recent National Sleep Foundation recommendations.
  3. Turn off all sources of blue light 60 to 90 minutes before bedtime.
  4. Get the television out of the bedroom, as well as all interactive electronics.
  5. Re-establish a bedtime routine.
  6. Keep a comfortable temperature in the bedroom of 65 to 70 degrees.
  7. Eliminate caffeine consumption of any type, coffee drinks, dark chocolate, and soft drinks.

 

Do you have any advice for parents who have two children of different ages?

Yes. Be aware that children of different ages require different amounts of sleep. Also, be
aware that two siblings may have different circadian clocks as to when they are comfortable falling asleep and waking up. Within reasonable limits, one size may not fit all.

What would be the optimum bedtime for children getting up for school?

Again, calculate using the National Sleep Foundation guidelines backwards from wake up time required to be up and able to go to school. Observe your child’s alertness upon awakening in the morning. If a 10 year old, with 9 hours of sleep is hard to wake up and cannot get going in the morning, extend sleep time to 10 hours. Try to get this established before school starts.

Should teachers expect children to be sleepy/grumpy when school starts again? Do you have any advice for them?

Yes. In many cases that is true. However, if this continues after a few weeks, it is important for the teacher to bring this to the attention of the parents. There may be an underlying sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or even narcolepsy causing the sleepiness. The earlier these disorders are diagnosed and treated, the better it is for the child’s development. In addition, as I discuss in my book Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day, children with ADHD may present with sleepiness during the day. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that teachers be alert to the sleepy child.

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